UKH

Clive Sinclair RIP

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 Doug 16 Sep 2021

Just seen this

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/sep/16/home-computing-pioneer-sir-clive-sinclair-dies-aged-81

I suspect many here remember his calculators (& reverse Polish logic) & PCs, a far cry from todays models but revolutionary at the time

In reply to Doug:

I learnt BASIC on a ZX81 with a 16k RAM pack. I felt like Lawnmower Man.

 Strontium Dog 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

That’s sad. Of course, mustn’t forget the C5. Very ahead of its time.

 Yanis Nayu 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Strontium Dog:

I often think of that and the ridicule he received for it. We’d be a lot better off if we’d all been using them for the last 30 years. Not sure my fingers have recovered from programming my ZX81…

 Snyggapa 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

My ZX81 was in a case with a real-ish keyboard on, not the plastic paddy keys. Luxury

In reply to Doug:

Very fond memories of playing Everest Ascent on the ZX81 with my Dad (I'd have been 7). Fiendishly difficult with crevasses, avalanches, storms and all the logistics of dropping ladders and oxygen at the various camps. Knocks the bollocks off most modern games. Never did reach the summit.

In reply to Snyggapa:

10 print ‘I had one too!’

20 goto 10

In reply to stealth_mode_rob:

> Very fond memories of playing Everest Ascent on the ZX81 with my Dad (I'd have been 7). Fiendishly difficult with crevasses, avalanches, storms and all the logistics of dropping ladders and oxygen at the various camps. Knocks the bollocks off most modern games. Never did reach the summit.

I think you needed the 16k expansion pack to actually summit.

 George Ormerod 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Shani:

Those were the days, spending hours copy typing some piss-poor version of asteroids, only to knock the RAM pack on the telly and lose the whole lot.  RIP Sir Clive, we forgive the C5.

 George Ormerod 16 Sep 2021
In reply to wilkie14c:

Funny that, I was thinking of the first bit of programming in school:

10 PRINT "Robert Pinn smells of piss"

20 GOTO 10

 the sheep 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Shani:

Heady days indeed

In reply to George Ormerod:

> Those were the days, spending hours copy typing some piss-poor version of asteroids, only to knock the RAM pack on the telly and lose the whole lot.  RIP Sir Clive, we forgive the C5.

Yeah, typing out a program on that hard, flat keyboard and once you'd finished and found all the fukcing syntax errors, you'd nudge the damn thing, dislodge the RAM pack and lose it!

Sinclair brilliantly kept that theme of disappointment running; there was that classic scenario with the ZX Spectrum where you'd set it loading a game returning 10 minutes later (a lifetime to a 9 year old), only to find it had hung. Or, if it had loaded, nudge the power socked and lose everything. 

He was a visionary genius!

 wintertree 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

I much preferred my Amstrad CPC 464 to the Sinclair ZX-81.

(Obviously I preferred both Z80 powered computers to the 6502 abominations out there...)

When it comes to the people behind the ZX and the CPC, my views are reversed.  Sir Clive was visionary; his transport contributions were far ahead of their time.

C9 

In reply to wintertree:

He was very nice, and visited my research group many times. The first time, we followed him over to the pub for lunch, so our group secretary took him over and wanted to know what to talk to him about until we arrived. Some wag suggested ‘ask him how the C5 is going’. Sure enough it was a bit frosty when we got there, but he thawed when the culprit asked for forgiveness, and took it in good spirit. We were looking at EV systems for him, but he never managed to get the funding together for production. Great designs and a really clever guy.

 FactorXXX 16 Sep 2021
In reply to Strontium Dog:

> That’s sad. Of course, mustn’t forget the C5. Very ahead of its time.

Someone I used to work with was a test driver for the C5 in the Hoover factory in Merthyr*.
Not sure if he's still got it, but he was given the second one off the Production Line in recognition of his efforts.

*Probably the worst claim to fame on UKC ever...  

In reply to Doug:

How good would it be to get and old C5 and put modern batteries and motor in it?
 

In reply to wintertree:

> (Obviously I preferred both Z80 powered computers to the 6502 abominations out there...)

The 6502 is a very cool processor but to appreciate it you need to get into the detail and look at how few clock cycles it takes to implement those simple instructions.  6502 is RISC to 6809 / Z80 CISC.  It probably isn't a coincidence that ARM came from a company that started out using the 6502.

In reply to Doug:

> I suspect many here remember his calculators (& reverse Polish logic) & PCs, a far cry from todays models but revolutionary at the time

From what I remember the Sinclair calculators didn't use reverse Polish, that was HP.

 GrahamD 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

I remember having the digital watch kit (another first) and playing with some of the HiFi modules.  All pretty innovative stuff.

 Doug 17 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

His 'scientific' calculators used reverse Polish logic, although I think HP were using it earlier. But maybe his 'non-scientific' calculators didn't? All a long time ago.

edit to add - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Scientific

Post edited at 07:25
 Mike-W-99 17 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Here it is in full reverse engineered glory http://files.righto.com/calculator/sinclair_scientific_simulator.html

 ThunderCat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

I had a Commodore 64, my mate over the road had a Speccy.  Probably years of combined time spent in each others rooms playing games on and them arguing over which one was the best (C64, obviously ).

I think I'll spend an hour or two revisiting some of the play throughs on YouTube as a bit of a nostalgia trip.  In my head Paperboy, Manic Miner, SabreWulf, Robin of Sherwood etc were a million times better than the crap you get nowadays like Last Of Us, Skyrim, Fallout etc..(*)

All the best Mr Sinclair.  You gave us thousands of hours of fun

TC

(*) - although I'm preparing myself to be harshly reminded that really, they weren't

In reply to Doug:

> His 'scientific' calculators used reverse Polish logic, although I think HP were using it earlier. But maybe his 'non-scientific' calculators didn't? All a long time ago.

Weird.  I owned a couple of Sinclair calculators and one was white like that one but I don't remember using polish notation.  It's  along time ago, maybe I forgot or maybe it was a different model.

 Martin W 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Lurking Dave:

> How good would it be to get and old C5 and put modern batteries and motor in it?

Probably unsurprisingly, there are people out there who do this kind of thing.  It seems that most of the rest of the running gear also needs to be upgraded if the result is going to be at all reliable.  Apparently the original front wheel had a plastic rim and caliper brakes - hardly a recipe for longevity.  And the original chassis was close to the limit of being able to sustain the forces created by the original drivetrain.  Put anything with more heft in it and it tends to bend and break.  So basically, you end up building a whole new vehicle which just happens to have a C5 body.

All the above faults were pretty typical of Sinclair's approach to keeping costs down (reference also the crappy 'keyboards' on the computers, and the bodging of a chipset designed for a basic four function calculators to give 'scientific' functions - which was why they used sort-of RPN, and some of the scientific functions didn't give very accurate answers).  IMO, while often entertainingly innovative, Sinclair's products were very much for "early adopters".  They certainly weren't built to last, or even to work particularly well: product engineering wasn't really the company's forte.

He was apparently quite snobby about MENSA (but then I believe that hardly made him unique amongst MENSA members).

In reply to Shani:

Lawnmower man came out 8 years after the ZX81 was discontinued.  Though it might seem they were around at the same time.

In reply to Doug:

It does take you back to the days of plugging your home computer into the TV. Typing in programs from computer magazines.  Trying to load and save stuff from cassettes. Adjusting the cassette player volume if it was failing.  Also remember the calculator he came out with, though I had one of the Casio ones a bit later in 1980.

In reply to Currently Resting:

> It does take you back to the days of plugging your home computer into the TV. Typing in programs from computer magazines.  Trying to load and save stuff from cassettes. Adjusting the cassette player volume if it was failing.  Also remember the calculator he came out with, though I had one of the Casio ones a bit later in 1980.

The stupidest software I ever had anything to do with was a Forth system on I think the TRS80.

Not only did you have to deal with the normal back to front reverse polish Forth nonsense but there wasn't enough memory so they tried to do virtual memory with the cassette tape.

 wercat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

both processors have their strong points.  I programmed the Z80 in an "emergency situation" having to learn on the job very rapidly in the oli industry having done 6502 machine code and later assembly.  It was a Comart Communicator (rack with a 64k card per user with the first card doubling as 10Mb hard drive controller, running CP/M).  I took a tactical decision to write m programs initially only learning the 8080A subset (on which the Z80 set was based and with which it was entirely compatible).  I loved the "sports car with a tin cockpit" feel of the 6502, incredibly efficient but with severe limitations on index space.  But I grew to love the simple elegance of the 8080 as I was writing a communications program with a built in command interpreter allowing simultaneous user keyboard interaction with the host during communications macro execution.  (allowed process to be running simultaneously on the micro and on the host with the ability to collect data and generated macros for execution from the host or remote terminal) Seemed like sci fi in 1983/4 at Kishorn.

That elegance stays in my memory and while I like the 6502 processor and instruction set it is like wearing a straitjacket!

Now give me a 65816!

In reply to ThunderCat:

> I had a Commodore 64, my mate over the road had a Speccy.  Probably years of combined time spent in each others rooms playing games on and them arguing over which one was the best (C64, obviously ).

> I think I'll spend an hour or two revisiting some of the play throughs on YouTube as a bit of a nostalgia trip.  In my head Paperboy, Manic Miner, SabreWulf, Robin of Sherwood etc were a million times better than the crap you get nowadays like Last Of Us, Skyrim, Fallout etc..(*)

> All the best Mr Sinclair.  You gave us thousands of hours of fun

> TC

> (*) - although I'm preparing myself to be harshly reminded that really, they weren't

Brilliant. I was desperately trying to remember some of those games. Dont forget Jet Set Willy too.

Me and my bro went down the Commodore route 16, 64 then Amiga - oh my god, how quick did those floppy games load!

 wercat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

my first Sinclair product was a kit "Micromatic" radio about 1971 - sadly it never worked.  Oh and some of his lovely shiny gold plated (ex plessey mil spec, legend has it recovered from a skip) germanium Micro Alloy Transistors bought from a radio parts shop in Newcastle with pocket money.

I narrowly escaped buying a ZX80 and went for a Tangerine Microtan kit instead (by the company who produced Oric)

 Offwidth 17 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

He produced several calculators, some of which were notoriously unreliable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Cambridge

Not my type of engineering hero but he made a lot of people happy with his home computers. RIP.

 wercat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

We all went round to someone's room at university to see his Sinclair calculator, a thing of wonder.

I had an assembled version a year or so later and it was pretty reliable then.  If only he'd modelled his electric transport ideas on a bike instead of the C5!  There is some kind of horror in me of having my head at the level of other vehicle wheels yet I'm pretty happy on a bike.

In reply to wercat:

> That elegance stays in my memory and while I like the 6502 processor and instruction set it is like wearing a straitjacket!

When I was at Uni I wrote video games to make some money in the holidays.  I ended up writing assembler for games on Z80, 6809, 6502 and a cross assembler written in 8086 assembler for 6809.

I got paid to port a game I wrote on the Dragon 32 which was a UK clone of the Tandy Color Computer in 6809 assembler to the BBC micro on 6502 assembler.   For someone who'd been doing CS at Uni the 6809 was a dream to code for because of all the powerful instructions and complex addressing modes and the neat orthogonal instruction set.  BUT the 6502 code went like sh*t off a shovel when you got good at it.  The cycle counts on all those high level instructions were really high and it made your code slow if you used them.   It was a real learning experience about the difference between academic knowledge and industry knowledge.

At Uni my final year project was writing a CAD tool which compiled a high level description of the 6502 processor into a structural language which could be compiled onto a gate array.  Doing that project I got really low level on the 6502 instruction set because I was basically designing the ALU/register file and control state machine to implement it and you could see why the instructions were done the way they them.

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Chucky Egg on the BBC micro. Galaxian, Space Invaders, Defender, Missile Defence, Elite, Asteroid, Donkey Kong for a few around that time.

 nniff 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

Once upon a time (Feb 1985), we had a really good night out at a Valentine's Day ball in central London.  It ended up with my brother being charged with being drunk in charge of a Sinclair C5.  He made every daily newspaper the following day, except for the FT, and had his own cartoon in the Sun and a headline 'Toff Nick nicked', and was all over the TV news.

I was in the Army at the time - I was due on parade at 8am near Chatham and at 7am I was still in 'Up all Night' in Fulham where we had retired to consider what bets to do, less my brother who was in the cells (he had run over a policeman's toes, riding on the pavement in Whitehall).  I made it to the barracks front gate at 7:50 still in a dinner jacket, and was on time, just, but rather less shiny than was expected.  During the day, there was no getting away from the coverage.  I have a very distinctive surname and word very rapidly got round and came to the attention of the authorities.  I was summoned and was told that it was the most entertaining thing for a long time, well done.   

My parents were mortified, until the phone didn't stop ringing with people calling to say what a great story.  His flat mates were besieged in the house for three days and couldn't leave and have to have all the curtains closed.

He was charged with being drunk in charge of a pedal cycle.  Some months later, in court, his barrister said it's a motor vehicle.  The judge asked if the prosecution intended to establish what type of vehicle it was.  They were not.  Case dismissed.  More press coverage and revisiting of the story.

 graeme jackson 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Lurking Dave:

> How good would it be to get and old C5 and put modern batteries and motor in it?

Not as good as this one..  https://www.jetpower.co.uk/jet-powered-sinclair-c5/

 ThunderCat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

> Brilliant. I was desperately trying to remember some of those games. Dont forget Jet Set Willy too.

> Me and my bro went down the Commodore route 16, 64 then Amiga - oh my god, how quick did those floppy games load!

Always wanted an Amiga but it was way out of my price range

I recall being amazed at playing ghostbusters and hearing it say "GHOSTBUSTERS" when you tapped the space bar.

I also remember Forbidden Forest which really scared me a bit when playing it late at night for the first time.

Golden memories!

In reply to ThunderCat:

Golden memories indeed.

I had a ZX Spectrum 48k. I remember playing Jet Pac, Jet Set Willy, Trans Am for hours on end. Then the games improved with software companies like Ultimate making 3D style adventure games. 

I remember the spectrum came with a book that taught you how to do some BASIC programming. In the back were some programs you could just type out to do something cool. I spent ages typing in the one for a Union Jack image...and was gutted when it came out black and white (not sure where I went wrong)

Quickshot joy stick was essential to do well at Daley Thompsons Decathlon.... hats off to the manufacturers of that thing, it took some mega abuse and never gave up as far as i can remember. Hours spent playing Lord of the Rings...and always falling down that f&*king trap door. Deathchase was a game where you rode a motorbike through woodland, avoiding trees and trying to shoot another rider. Fantastic game and only 16k!

Wonderful times!

In reply to Currently Resting:

> Lawnmower man came out 8 years after the ZX81 was discontinued.  Though it might seem they were around at the same time.

I was using it as a turn of phrase!

 David Riley 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

Clive Sinclair was interesting. His mail order ads in Practical Electronics and Wireless World inspired me. Technical hype seemingly born out of the ads in American Superman comics for nuclear reactor kits and Estes rockets. The business model and presentation appealed. The Sinclair name and plain black.  I wanted to sell products that way.
I bought his IC10, a 10W !! semiconductor IC !! amplifier. After ordering parts from Radiospares, I built it on the tagboard used for connecting valve circuits. The 'pushed to extremes' marketing was special, not the product. (In this case rumoured to be lower spec. reject devices from Plessey.)  Alan Sugar learned too.
I bought and liked the Cambridge calculator.  Project 60 amplifier kit. Blew that up by lazy impatience to get it working.  Sinclair Frequency counter.   Products were a mixture of style and naff, innovation and bodge.
I tried to buy the MK14 Science of Cambridge kit, his first computer product. A tiny hidden office, just up the road from King's, contained a young, pretty, girl. She had nothing to do, and knew nothing about it, or when it, or Clive, would be available.  I later bought a Nascom.
He shared my view that customers (and salesmen) have to be told what they want.
"There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.”
I bumped into him many times, although we never actually met.  No regret. It would probably not have gone well.
He was friends with the parents of a girl I knew and would sometimes be in the house by Midsummer Common while we were there. His gaudy blue metallic Rolls, reg CS, parked outside.
One time he spent the afternoon in the Cambridge lab where I was working on radio systems.  I was told to stay late because he wanted to discuss the aerial I'd been working on, since it seemed useful for his pocket tv.  But I suspect the draw of the pub dragged him away.
The number of times he ran past me on the street, both in Cambridge and London, seemed supernatural.  I ran in his Cambridge half marathon in 1984 with a good time. But was so completely wrecked that I don't have any memory of the finish where, I understand, Clive was greeting the runners.
He did a lot of stuff. We need more people like that.

 wercat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

my son's just been awarded his Master's in chemistry - believe it or not he wrote the tool they used for modelling and visualising the behaviour of bonds in complex organic molecules (RNA) in BBC Basic for Windows, compiled to run on a modern PC at hundreds of times the speed machine code would execute on an Archimedes.  He cut his teeth on an Electron and then a BBC Micro I repaired about 12 years ago.

Post edited at 13:29
 Siward 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Bjartur i Sumarhus:

I wrote some top notch games (he says) on the Spectrum in basic. They took many, many hours to write. Custom characters for explosions and all. 

There ended my computing career though, ho hum. 

 Hardonicus 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

Let's not forget he married a lapdancer and former Miss England 36 years his junior when he was 70. If that doesn't cement his legendary status what else can?

In reply to Hardonicus:

> Let's not forget he married a lapdancer and former Miss England 36 years his junior when he was 70. If that doesn't cement his legendary status what else can?

Ok, I admit it, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to Google them. Very odd couple indeed.

As the famous Mrs Merton interview goes...

 owlart 17 Sep 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> I got paid to port a game I wrote on the Dragon 32 which was a UK clone of the Tandy Color Computer in 6809 assembler to the BBC micro on 6502 assembler. 

I don't suppose you remember the name of that game? If it was released commercially I might still have it in stock here at work!

 wercat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Doug:

Unfortunately he may be remembered as the Alexander Armstrong Caricature in this docu drama:

youtube.com/watch?v=z1QU60cTyh4&

In reply to Doug:

Just remembered there was lunar lander as well. Deceptively simple but fiendishly difficult not to crash the thing. Bloody physics.

 wercat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Currently Resting:

Ah, that ran on my Casio FX502

 ThunderCat 17 Sep 2021
In reply to Bjartur i Sumarhus:

I've just remembered playing Elite for hours, and hours, and hours... And hours..

And of playing Commando with the keyboard on the floor so that I could use my toe on the space bar to lob grenades

In reply to Doug:

Danger UXB. There’s another game I remember playing

In reply to owlart:

> I don't suppose you remember the name of that game? If it was released commercially I might still have it in stock here at work!

Doubt it sold more than a few thousand copies, it was commissioned by a two-man outfit in Leeds.  I ripped off Donkey Kong, Galaxians and Defender for them with versions for 8 bit micros called Albert and the Monsters, Galactic Raiders and Protector.  Never actually played the real games, just worked off a book about arcade games which had a description and a screen shot and changed everything except the basic premise so they wouldn't get sued.

In reply to Bjartur i Sumarhus:

> Then the games improved with software companies like Ultimate making 3D style adventure games. 

We had the original drawing for the intro screen of Knight Lore (or was it Sabre Wulf?) at work at some point. A reminder that even though Sir Clive was before my time in computing, chances are I wouldn't have had the job I have now had his machines not existed. Huge figure in the industry.

Post edited at 12:01
 wercat 18 Sep 2021
In reply to Currently Resting:

Ah, they had the Right Stuff in those days!

Is that the vector graphics one?  I saw it at Durham university at an evening course, next to the ICL Perq

the  user manual for my first computer is on line, including how to build it first ...  It came in a very fetching yellow "system file" binder

I built a veroboard hand wired repro of it a few years back

http://oric.free.fr/microtan/user_manual.html

Post edited at 19:03

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